"It was three days after he went missing that Lana made the call. Three days. The baby had cried, and the washing machine had whirred, and she’d slept and eaten and watched TV. All before she made the call."

A man goes missing, yet his wife doesn't seem too bothered. Mysterious manuscripts keep turning up at a magazine's office. The lake by a girl's house holds the key to a memory her mind has suppressed. People seem just a bit off, a tinge more visceral than the average person—or so we'd like to believe. In this collection of 13 short stories, A.J. Schmitz draws readers into a world where guarded secrets and forbidden thoughts bubble to the surface and where the common man is at the mercy of his mind—a world unsettlingly similar to our own.

Schmitz writes with a tight prose that wastes no words. Each story is self-contained and builds an entire scenario in as little as a page at times. The stories draw on the worst of human nature, eschewing the supernatural in favor of the psychological, yet still evoking an otherworldly atmosphere. Most of the tales culminate in a dark twist, some predictable but many unexpected, and all will make the reader uncomfortable in the best of ways. These are not the kinds of stories that bring about nightmares, nor is it a thrill that will they make your pulse race. Instead, this psychological thriller examines human nature and the folly of our psyches through a slow but steady pace and a perpetually eerie tone. The stories will make you scrutinize the people around you, wondering what secrets they hide. Schmitz's writing is crisp and enthralling, and his collection is a psychological meander through the minds of people and the darkness that often hides just beneath the surface.

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